- On the night of March 15, BASIC Board Member Brian Eno gave an impassioned speech at a 5×15 event at the Tabernacle in Notting Hill, London. Brian explained the reasons behind his commitment to nuclear disarmament and emphasised the work of BASIC in advancing the agenda in London and Washington. He reflected on the dangers of the continued existence of 23,000 weapons around the globe and emphasised the importance of public support for the efforts of US President Barack Obama and other world leaders to reduce the nuclear threat. He also talked of the need for us to really begin the new century by engaging in the opportunity for abandoning the use of nuclear deterrence and building global cooperation needed to address 21st century threats.
- BASIC Executive Director Paul Ingram attended a fascinating and important roundtable discussion on declaratory policy on March 23 at the Royal United Services Institute. The event, involving a small number of influential UK officials and experts, focused on the circumstances in which states might use nuclear weapons, the guarantees they give to states without nuclear weapons, and the issue of \’no first use\’ commitments. BASIC is working to persuade the UK Government to make commitments in these areas prior to the conclusion of the NPT review Conference at the end of May. In early March, Paul and BASIC Research Director Ian Kearns gave a private briefing to Downing Street political staff on the nuclear disarmament agenda and the possibilities for UK initiatives in March and April.
- Paul has given a number of talks on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, including to students and staff at Lancaster University and to a conference in the Foreign Office alongside Minister Ivan Lewis. BASIC has been commenting in the UK and US media on issues such as Iran’s nuclear options and the international community’s response, NATO and US nuclear posture, and the prospects for an historic agreement between the United States and Russia in early April. Finally, BASIC organised the Parliamentary itinerary for visiting US expert Deepti Choubey of the Carnegie Endowment For Peace, who spoke about prospects ahead of May\’s Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference to three meetings and several leading MPs.
- Anne Penketh, BASIC\’s Washington Program Director, went to the National Defense University on February 18 as a guest of the White House. She saw Vice President Joe Biden renew the Obama’s administration’s support for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. BASIC put out a press release afterwards welcoming the decision by the White House to throw its weight behind the long-overdue ratification of the Treaty.
- BASIC has attended a number of interesting Congressional hearings on Capitol Hill, and think tank events, directly linked to our agenda in the past month. The Atlantic Council scheduled a series of events, ranging from NATO’s nuclear posture to Iran, which were attended by Anne or BASIC Analyst Chris Lindborg. Anne met the Estonian president on March 19 and discussed with him a possible visit to Tallinn by a BASIC delegation later in the year.
- BASIC brought out the first of its papers linked to the Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which is in New York this May. The conference will examine progress on the treaty’s objectives, which include nuclear and general disarmament, the prevention of nuclear proliferation, and the sharing of nuclear power technology in a responsible and safe manner. In addition to forthcoming papers focusing on the disarmament pillar of the NPT, we have singled out for attention two issues that could potentially wreck the conference: Iran\’s nuclear ambitions, and the Middle East resolution on a nuclear weapons free zone. BASIC Executive Director Paul Ingram is taking the lead on Iran while Anne, encouraged by Egyptian, UK and UN officials, wrote a background paper on the Middle East resolution aimed at smoothing the path for negotiators. Anne had a half hour meeting at the White House with President Obama’s adviser on Weapons of Mass Destruction, Gary Samore, during which he also gave her the inside track on the administration’s intentions on the Nuclear Posture Review, likely to be completed in early April. Publication of the Middle East report was timed to coincide with a conference in Washington this week on the nuclear weapons free zones in general.
- At a couple of social events this month, Anne established contact with the Wall Street Journal\’s chief security correspondent. The WSJ is the newspaper most sceptical about the arms control agenda. Anne also had dinner with the so-called “diplo babes”, the women journalists who cover the State Department, and talked about BASIC’s agenda.
When Paul is in Washington in May, he and Board member Jo Spear will speak at an event co-hosted by BASIC on Transatlantic Security Perspectives after the UK elections. US board members are being briefed by the chief US negotiator to the NPT, Susan Burk, over lunch in the coming days.
START Follow on
START replacement treaty negotiations have now concluded. Presidents Medvedev and Obama will be signing their new START treaty in Prague, probably on April 8. The treaty will limit the number of strategic weapons deployed by the United States and Russia. Under the Joint Understanding signed in July last year US and Russia agreed they would reduce the number of their strategic warheads to between 1500-1675, and their strategic delivery vehicles to between 500-1100.
US Nuclear Posture Review
The signing of the START follow-on treaty is likely to coincide with the publication of the Obama administration\’s nuclear posture review early in April. The review establishes US nuclear policy, strategy, capabilities and force posture for the next 5 to 10 years. The Nuclear Posture Review originally was scheduled to be released in December 2009 but was then delayed repeatedly, apparently while a debate continues within the administration over declaratory posture: the circumstances in which America would use nuclear weapons. The debate hinges on whether the “sole” or “primary” purpose is to counter a nuclear-only attack. That would also mean that nuclear weapons would not be used against a biological or chemical attack. But staying with the current (Bush-era) policy of ambiguity remains one of the options. BASIC is encouraging the administration to adopt a transformational approach based on President Obama’s pledge for a world free of nuclear weapons that would give a strong signal to the rest of the world.
A big part of BASIC’s focus at present is the issue of the US tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. It seems likely that the language in Obama\’s nuclear posture review will be fudged deliberately in order to encourage NATO to discuss the fate of these weapons. This is one of the differences with the Bush administration that Obama people like to point out – i.e., that they listen to their allies and don’t just tell them what to do.
Nuclear Security Summit
This April, Washington will host the long awaited Nuclear Security Summit as part of President Obama’s initiative to secure all vulnerable nuclear material within four years. BASIC staff will be attending the parallel meeting organised by non-government organisations and we will be publishing a report by our Research Director Ian Kearns on nuclear security that highlights the linkages between nuclear security, strengthened non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament.
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Laura Spagnuolo, Program Associate
The Grayston Centre
28 Charles Square
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lspagnuolo at basicint.org
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